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Sundarambal Vs. Suppiah Pillai - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberLetters Patent Appeal No. 114 of 1960
Judge
Reported inAIR1963Mad260; (1963)1MLJ106
ActsHindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 - Sections 20 and 24
AppellantSundarambal
RespondentSuppiah Pillai
Appellant AdvocateK.V. Srinivasa Iyer, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateN.S. Srinivasan, Adv.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredCourt. In Muthalammal v. Veeraraghavalu Naidu
Excerpt:
- - her claim was originally contested on the ground that it had been discharged, as her mother was paid what was due to the appellant as well. that jurisdiction cannot obviously deprive the plaintiff of her claim for arrears of maintenance, which was well laidat the time when the suit was instituted, unless there be some statutory provision curtailing that right or entailing the dismissal of the claim. this contention appears to us to be well founded......light thereto. an issue was framed in the suit as to whether the appellant would be entitled to claim maintenance either by way of arrears or in respect of the future. the trial court took the view that the appellant would be entitled to maintenance till the act came into force, and adjudged accordingly. on appeal by the respondent, the learned district judge of madurai held that, generally maintenance has to be fixed as from the date of the decree and as by that time, the appellant had changed her faith, she would not be entitled even to the arrears of maintenance awarded. the appellate court, therefore, dismissed the suit in toto. on a second appeal to this court, the conclusion arrived at by the learned district judge was affirmed by veeraswami j. though upon a different line of.....
Judgment:

S. Ramachandra Iyer, C. J.

1. This appeal raises a question under Section 24 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act 1956. The appellant is the daughter of the respondent through his first wife, whom he discarded in the year 1944. The appellant's mother instituted O. S. No. 70 of 1949 against we respondent and his father in the Sub Court, Madurai, to recover past and future maintenance for herself and her daughter. But the latter was not made eo nomine a party to the suit. The claim for maintenance was compromised, under which the appellant's mother was given a house for residence and a sum of Rs. 35 per mensem. The compromise decree is dated 30th October 1950. About three years thereafter, the appellant attained the age of majority. She even got employment in June 1956. On 20th September 1956, she instituted the suit, out of which this appeal arises, against her father, the respondent herein, for recovery of past and future maintenance. Her claim was originally contested on the ground that it had been discharged, as her mother was paid what was due to the appellant as well. Pending the suit certain events happened, which it is necessary now to refer to. The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act of 1956 was passed and came into force on 21st December 1956. That enactment which applies only to Hindus repealed the preexisting Hindu law in regard to matters expressly provided by it. The Act provides that a parent would be liable to the maintenance of his or her child, so long as the earnings, if any, of the child are insufficient to maintain him or her. There is also another provision in the Act, viz., Section 24 to which we will have to make reference presently, which absolves the parent from the liability to maintain the child when that child ceases to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion. The appellant became a convert to Christianity on the 7th July 1957. On the same day, she was married to a Christian husband. There can be no doubt, having regard to the provisions of Section 24, that the appellant would have forfeited her rights, if any, for future maintenance from her father. The right to maintenance is a recurring one, and, even if there had been a decree in respect of it, the appellant would have forfeited the same from the date of her ceasing to be a Hindu. It was therefore competent for, and indeed, obligatory upon, the lower courts to take note of the subsequent event, viz., the conversion of the appellant to a different religion, and decide the suit in the light thereto. An issue was framed in the suit as to whether the appellant would be entitled to claim maintenance either by way of arrears or in respect of the future. The trial court took the view that the appellant would be entitled to maintenance till the Act came into force, and adjudged accordingly. On appeal by the respondent, the learned District Judge of Madurai held that, generally maintenance has to be fixed as from the date of the decree and as by that time, the appellant had changed her faith, she would not be entitled even to the arrears of maintenance awarded. The appellate court, therefore, dismissed the suit in toto. On a second appeal to this Court, the conclusion arrived at by the learned District Judge was affirmed by Veeraswami J. though upon a different line of reasoning. According to the learned Judge, the right of a Hindu daughter to be maintained by her father is a personal right and would be available to her only so long as she remained in the Hindu fold and would be lost to her on ceasing to be a Hindu. The judgment of the learned Judgeis reported in Sundarambal v. Suppiah Piliai, : AIR1961Mad323 . The learned Judge, however, granted leave to the appellant to file an appeal under Clause 15 of the Letters Patent. Hence this appeal.

2. There can be little doubt that the claim of a Hindu daughter to be maintained by her father is personal to herself. A claim for arrears of maintenance also will partake of that character, so long as the maintenance had not been ascertained either by agreement of parties or by decree of Court. In Muthalammal v. Veeraraghavalu Naidu, : AIR1953Mad202 , a Bench of this Court held that a Hindu widow's claim to maintenance against her husband's coparcener, so long as it had not been fixed, could not be assigned and a suit by an assignee was not therefore maintainable. That decision referred with approval to the unreported judgment of Happell J. in C. R. P. No. 875 of 1945 (Mad), where there was a transfer by the plaintiff in a suit for maintenance of her right to arrears. The learned Judge held that the amount of maintenance not having been ascertained previously, the right continued to be a personal right which could not be transferred.

3. But no question of transfer of any right to maintenance either past or future, is involved in the present case. The person entitled to the maintenance continues to be the plaintiff. The only difference is that she has ceased to be a Hindu, having been converted to an alien religion. The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act which applies only to Hindus provides under Section 20 for payment of maintenance by a parent to his child or children. Section 4 of that Act repeals all existing laws with respect to which there is a provision under the Act. Section 20 cannot be said to be inconsistent with the pre-existing law. But, even so, it has provided in itself a right in the child to claim maintenance from the father under certain circumstances. Section 24, which is important for the purpose of the present case, states that

'no person shall be entitled to claim maintenance under this chapter if he or she has ceased to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion'.

Veeraswami J. has expressed the view that, if the daughter of a Hindu who had been converted to Christianity had not previously sued for maintenance against her parent, it would not be open to her to claim arrears of maintenance, after her conversion even for the period during which she remained a Hindu. Having regard to the nature of the right to maintenance and also the provisions of Section 24 referred to above, we are in respectful agreement with that view. But the appellant in the present case was a Hindu on the date of the presentation of the plaint. She continued to be so even on the date when the Act came into force. Therefore, her original right to claim maintenance from her father continued and her suit was sustainable even after the Act came into force. It was only later that the appellant was converted to Christianity. The question therefore is whether by reason of such conversion, her suit has become incompetent. The normal rule is that the rights of parties to an action shall be adjudicated as on the date of the suit. It is no doubt true that a Court will have jurisdiction to take note of the events which came into existence subsequent to the institution of the suit and mould the relief accordingly. But that would only entitle the Court to deny the appellant maintenance after the date of her conversion. That jurisdiction cannot obviously deprive the plaintiff of her claim for arrears of maintenance, which was well laidat the time when the suit was instituted, unless there be some statutory provision curtailing that right or entailing the dismissal of the claim. The only provision to which our attention is drawn in this connection, in Section 24. But, as we stated earlier, that refers only to claims to be made, whether for past or future maintenance and does not in terms refer to claims made when the party was a Hindu, but was subsequently converted to some other religion pending adjudication of the claim. It is no doubt true that the claim for past maintenance before the decree is not assignable, but it can certainly be pursued by the person who is entitled to it. In other words, the claim is personal, and such personal claim cannot cease to be so, because there is a conversion to another religion of the person making the claim. We are therefore of opinion that the appellant, notwithstanding her conversion, would be entitled to recover from the respondent (her father) arrears of maintenance till the date of conversion to Christianity, the quantum payable being fixed after taking into consideration her earnings. But as we stated earlier, she would not be entitled to any future maintenance.

4. Mr. N.S. Srinivasa Iyer, appearing for the respondent, has sought to support the judgment of the learned Judge on another ground. Learned counsel contended that the appellant's claim must be held to have been discharged in view of the fact that, when her mother was decreed to be paid maintenance under the compromise decree referred to earlier, the appellant's claim had also been taken into account. This contention appears to us to be well founded. It is admitted that the appellant has all along been living with her mother. It is also significant that, although she attained the age of majority as early as 1953, she did not make any claim against the respondent till 1956, and that too, after she was able to secure an employment. In the plaint in O. S. No. 70 of 1949, the appellant's mother expressly claimed maintenance not only for herself, but for her child, the appellant. The preamble to the decree, while referring to the claim, states that a claim was made as and for past maintenance due to her and her daughter. The terms of the razinama do not, however, make any reference to the appellant, mat was probably because the appellant was not eo nomine a party to the suit. Having regard to the claim made and the circumstances under which the compromise was effected and the significant inaction of the appellant till 1956. We accept the respondent's case that the appellant's claim to maintenance had been taken note of at the time of the compromise and provided for then by making a consolidated sum payable to her mother. The claim of the appellant, therefore, cannot be sustained on the merits.

5. The appeal fails and is accordingly dismissed.There will be no order as to costs.


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